Travel News caught up with Sure Travel CEO, Vanya Lessing, who has just returned from a trip overseas. We asked her how she navigated COVID-19 protocols during her travels and how different this trip was from those she had done before the pandemic.
“As a privileged member of the travel industry I’ve had many wonderful travel adventures, seeing and doing extraordinary things,” said Lessing. “Those experiences required the usual amount of planning, paperwork and an understanding of the rules and regulations that apply to different airlines and countries. If you’re on a South African passport, depending on which countries you are going to, the visa processes and costs are painful. Nevertheless, we got used to it and it did not dampen our wanderlust.”
Lessing recently travelled to Europe and, as much as she has knowledge and resources, admitted this was a very new travel experience to navigate. “During the long months of COVID-19 restrictions, we took time to re-imagine a new era of travel, not knowing how it would all work, but hoping it would be standard and seamless in this digital world.
“Country, airport and airline passenger-handling protocols are very different. Understanding the various processes before, during and after a journey is critical. It is an integral and very important part of an agent’s customer duty of care, with many pitfalls and consequences if you don’t get it right,” she said.
Lessing shared some important travel tips:
Planning the journey
*Client should make a check-list and keep checking it. Things change all the time.
*Client should download airport and airline apps to receive regular updates.
*Client should check country requirements regarding vaccinations and COVID-19 tests; these often change along the way.
*Your client cannot travel anywhere without a ‘pass’ (vaccination certificate). They may have to upload it on to a country and airline site before the visa is issued but they will be asked for it everywhere they go, including airports, restaurants, shopping malls, supermarkets, pharmacies… absolutely everywhere! I showed my single certificate in most places, but in a few where there was a sharp person checking, they noted I had had the Pfizer and asked for the second certificate. In the end, my certificates were quite tattered.
*Client should have several copies of the vaccination certificate and possibly get them laminated. Of course, this will become much more streamlined as we adopt the digital QR code system.
Delays at various airports’ check-in was frustrating, with some passengers arriving without all the requirements in place. It is best to advise client to arrive earlier than advised and dig deep for patience when this happens. Airline staff are very helpful and are being tested to their limits.
On board your flight
Everyone has to get used to wearing a mask for the entire flight. Advise client to ensure they have some spare ones and particularly those that they are comfortable wearing.
We also have to get used to this for the foreseeable future. Your client may have to have many along the way and they’re expensive, so they should plan for this in their travel budget.
With much excitement as the borders open up, be enthusiastic and ready to embrace change, for there is a lot that has changed.
Lessing has a message for travel consultants. “Get on top of this and you’re indispensable! Your value in the travel supply chain has increased beyond measure. The ‘new age’ travel consultant is going to be very much sought after. Even in a digital world where customers have the choice to manage their own travel, there is going to be high demand for travel assistance, either for the entire process or just part of it.”